BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With jury selection over after just one day, the trial of a man accused of killing his grandfather continued Tuesday with opening statements getting underway.
Prosecutors said Dustin Musso, 30, of Baton Rouge, killed his grandfather and then set the house on fire to cover up the crime. The prosecution claims to have a taped confession, along with evidence from prior crimes.
Musso has been cleared to testify in his own defense, but it is unclear if he will. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Pete Musso, 76.
All 12 jurors and two alternates were chosen by 5:50 p.m. Monday. This is a jury trial, but jurors do not have to be unanimous for a conviction. Musso can be convicted if 10 of 12 jurors find him guilty.
Pete Musso was killed in his Baton Rouge home in May 2009. Dustin Musso is suspected of killing his grandfather, setting the house on fire and then taking a bus to Alabama. According to the victim's granddaughter, Pete Musso took in his grandson to live with him. Pete Musso lived at a home on Glenda Drive in Baton Rouge, where a fire started around 3:40 a.m. on May 5, 2009. The East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office said he experienced some sort of trauma to the head, which is why police began investigating it as a murder.
Dustin Musso was taken into custody at a bus station in Montgomery, AL, the same morning as the murder and fire. He was initially charged with felony theft, but the charges were later upgraded. In September 2009, a Baton Rouge grand jury indicted him for first-degree murder. If convicted, he faces life in prison. The death penalty has been taken off the table.
District Judge Mike Erwin is presiding over the trial. Prem Burns is the prosecutor for the case. Attorney Lance Unglesby is Musso's lawyer. When asked about Musso's prior courtroom antics, Unglesby thinks Musso will be in check.
In August, Dustin Musso faced other family members in court. Burns left nothing to chance in the pre-trial hearing to determine whether the state can introduce evidence from past crimes when prosecuting Musso for the murder of his grandfather. She pointed to a 2007 issue in Virginia, when Dustin Musso talked of killing his father and grandfather, then the detective and judge on the case.
Musso ended up in a Virginia jail in 2007. Two years later, he returned to Louisiana. His father took the stand in the August pre-trial hearing and testified he felt his son was gunning for him in 2009 after Pete Musso was killed. He told the judge his son threatened to kill him and his wife and burn down the house in 2007. Dustin Musso's stepmother also testified about how he allegedly planned to kill her as well.
Unglesby also lost a bid to toss out a previous confession by his client. He said he knows it will be a tough trial. Burns also plans to bring a Virginia judge to Louisiana for the trial. Musso was convicted of threatening to kill that judge in 2007.